While Herbert Spencer is a celebrated philosopher of contemporary conservatism, many of his ideas are contrary to Scriptural principles. Spencer’s works embrace a plethora of subjects and ideas that are brilliant for a man of his time. However, on the issue of society and the state specifically, Spencer’s theories violate clear principles in Scripture.
Spencer had many theories revolving around the ideal society. His largest contribution to new thought was the idea that evolution existed for both creation and society. This presumption is possibly the most blatant Scriptural contradiction, because God is the sole creator of the universe, and evolution plays no part in it. The same applies to society. Society does not evolve in the sense that only the fittest survive; society progresses as God gives man the ability to design new things.
Spencer’s approach to evil and suffering also contradicts Biblical teachings. Spencer believes that suffering is necessary for the good of the state because it causes only the best to survive. He continues his theory by declaring that “interference with suffering for sentimental reasons” is harmful to society: “If they are sufficiently complete to live, they do live, and it is well they should live. If they are not sufficiently complete to live, they die, and it is best they should die” (756). The Bible clearly teaches that God is love. Christians are commanded to visit the poor and fatherless and have compassion on those less fortunate (James 1:27; I Peter 3:8; I John 3:17). There is no concept of the survival of the fittest in the Bible. Men are equal in the sight of God (Acts 10:34).
Spencer’s idea of evil is also twisted: evil is the result of the “non-adaptation of constitution to conditions” (755). Evil for Spencer is something that can be cured if the person can adapt to his conditions, but the Bible clearly states that evil is from Satan, the Father of lies. Evil will not be cured until Satan and his followers are cast into the lake of fire.
Spencer also violates Scripture in his beliefs about the state and government. After developing his theories on militant societies and industrial societies, Spencer claims that industrial societies exist “to assure the maximum liberty and happiness of its members” (757). The Bible clearly teaches that Christians must be content in God alone and not in their state (Hebrews 13:5). It is not the role of government to keep the people happy.
Spencer also claims that government will eventually wither away and that government is not a divine institution. God ordained government in the Garden of Eden in the form of a theocracy. When the Jews wanted a human king, God gave them a monarchy. Government has been around since the beginning of time; it will never wither away. Government is also a divine institution because God ordained it and commands people to obey it except when government forces people to violate His commands (Hebrews 13:7,17; Acts 5:29; Matthew 22:21). Spencer’s ideas sparked the imagination of many prominent individuals in American philosophy, but when God is eliminated from man’s thought all he is left with is his own depraved reasoning.
– Hannah S. Bowers
Ebenstein, W., & A. Ebenstein. Great political thinkers: Plato to the present. Harcourt College Publishers: Fort Worth, TX, 2000.
Holy Bible, The. Authorized King James Version.